Most colleges, universities make SAT and ACT tests ‘optional’ because of COVID-19

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BLAKCSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — The SAT and ACT tests will be optional for students planning to go to college in 2021. In fact, most colleges are not requiring students to take the exams to be considered for admission.

Virginia Tech is one of the universities utilizing a “test pilot program” for this application cycle. The main reason for the change is because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Virginia Tech’s director of admissions, Juan Espinoza, says thousands of students are running to problems finding dates and sites to take the exams since many of them are being postponed or canceled due to the pandemic.

According to Espinoza, his staff wants to help alleviate some of the anxiety potential Hokies might be facing for not being able to sign up for the tests easily.

“Although you haven’t seen as many colleges and universities switch to a test optional or test blind policy as you have during the pandemic, there certainly has been a movement to put less emphasis on it,” he said. “Our research has shown the more advanced level course work a student takes, the better they’re going to do in college once they arrive. The better they do in their courses their freshman year, the more likely they are to come back for their sophomore year.”

The school’s admissions department will re-examine the pilot program after the application cycle ends in order to determine if it will become a permanent format.

Nathan and Emily Snow are seniors at Salem High School who decided to take the SAT exam in August, even after they each attempted to take the test twice earlier in the year. They were canceled once in May and again in June because of COVID-19.

The twins say they believed their test scores could make their college applications stronger.

“We’ve never gone through it any other way,” Nathan said. “So it almost feels to us like this is the way it happens.”

Virginia Tech has been putting less weight on standardized test scores even before the global pandemic. Espinoza says the results are not clear cut indicators of how someone will ultimately perform in college.

“Test scores are not a great a predictor of success,” he said. “Research has shown that especially with some non-traditional students and students coming from under-represented backgrounds, they have not been a great predictor of how they’re going to do in college. In some cases, they’re even viewed as a barrier.”

Virginia Tech is taking a more holistic approach in its consideration for admitting students:

  • Academics and GPA
  • Course rigor (AP classes, dual-enrollment, etc.)
  • Extracurricular activities, such as clubs, volunteer service, or leadership roles

“I think it’s a good opportunity for colleges to look at other things and to consider other things that we’ve done throughout high school instead of just focusing on one test score,” Emily said.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Tech does not plan to admit fewer students for the fall 2021 semester.

Other changes the university has implemented because of the coronavirus include moving informational sessions for students and parents, as well as shifting campus tours to a virtual format.

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